When we’re too tired to cook, a frozen pizza is often the first thing we reach for. But in the heat of the summer, do you really want your kitchen climbing to 400 degrees? (Neither do we). Equally easy, but infinitely more delicious, you can whip up a grilled pizza in nearly no time.
There’s no denying the heavenly flavor and texture of a wood-fired crust. Grilling pizza is the closest you can come to that at home. No matter if you’re using charcoal or gas. You will still achieve amazing texture and flavor – far better than what your oven will deliver.
Grilled pizza requires fresh pizza dough. Fortunately this is easy to whip up, and you likely have most, if not all, of the ingredients on hand. If you plan ahead, you can make the dough the day before. (If you’re like us, you will fall in love with grilled pizza and it will become a regular part of your weekly repertoire this summer. So you will always have pizza dough in the freezer.)
If you’re making your own dough, this is a great recipe from Smitten Kitchen:
Really Simple Pizza Dough
Makes enough for one small, thin crust pizza. Double it if you like your pizza thick and bready.
1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump everything onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a big ball.
If you are finding this step difficult, pause. Leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough a lot easier to work with.
Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (a spritz of cooking spray does the trick), dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.
Dump it back on the floured counter and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into a ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.
If you are using the dough that day, it is now ready to be rolled, grilled, and topped. If you are using the dough the next day, you can wrap it tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight. If not using for several days, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze until the night before you plan to make pizza. (Move to the refrigerator overnight).
Now on to the fun part! You will need to prep your grill for high direct heat. Pour a little olive oil into a small bowl for greasing the grill grates and for brushing the pizza.
While the grill is heating up, get your pizza toppings ready to go. What to choose? What to choose? We love a classic Margherita – tomato sauce, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella. But you can top your pizza any way you choose – you’re the one who will be eating it after all!
Now that your toppings are ready, it’s time to shape your pizza dough.
Begin by flattening it with your hands on a slightly floured surface. Either use your fingers to stretch the dough out, or hold up the edges of the dough with your fingers, letting the dough hang and stretch, while working around the edges of the dough. Once you've stretched the dough, let it sit for 5 minutes and then push out the edges with your fingers again, until you have a nice round shape, about 12-inches in diameter. You want it as flat as possible, from the center to the outer edges. Do not make a raised rim, it will interfere with the grilling process.
If you are preparing the pizza dough for a party, you can make several pizza dough rounds, stack them separated by parchment paper, and keep them in the refrigerator for up to two hours before cooking.
Once the grill is hot (you can only hold your hand an inch over the grates for 2 seconds), dip a tightly folded up paper towel in olive oil and use tongs to wipe the grill grates. Then place a pizza dough round on a lightly floured (or you can use cornmeal) rimless cookie sheet (or pizza peel if you have one). Let the dough slide off the cookie sheet onto the hot grill grates. Close the lid of the grill and let cook for 2 minutes.
After 2 minutes, open the grill and check underneath the dough to see if it is getting browned. If it is on one side, but not another, use a spatula or tongs to rotate the dough 90 degrees and cook for another minute. If it is not beginning to brown, cover the grill and continue to cook a minute at a time until the bottom has begun to brown. It should only take a couple minutes if you have a hot grill. The top of the pizza dough will start bubbling up with air pockets.
Once the pizza dough has browned lightly on one side, use your cookie sheet or pizza peel to remove it from the grill. Use a spatula to flip the dough over so that the grilled side is now facing up. Keep the grill covered so it retains its heat for the next step.
Paint the grilled surface of the pizza with a little olive oil, then cover with 1 ladle of sauce – no more, or you'll end up with a soggy pizza. Sprinkle on your toppings, ending with the cheese. (If you are using meat, put that over the cheese.) Remember to go light on the toppings, or your pizza will be heavy and soggy.
Slide the topped pizza back onto the grill. If you are using a gas grill, reduce the heat. If working with a charcoal grill, close the vents on the cover almost all the way. Close the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly. Pull off the grate with a spatula onto a cutting board or other flat surface and let rest for a couple minutes before cutting into slices. Resist the urge to slice and eat immediately! Like the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
Okay, you’ve waited long enough. DIG IN!!! One bite of the grilled gooiness and we are certain you will be a convert. No more frozen pizzas for you!